Even if you’re religious about brushing and flossing the recommended amount, your teeth can still take on a hue that’s better suited for bananas. Smoking, drinking coffee, tea, red wine, soda and even eating healthy foods like berries can leave your teeth looking less than their best. Luckily, there are many whiteners available that will put the sparkle back in your smile. Which one is best for you? Read on to find out.
Over-the-counter products. You’ve probably seen over-the-counter (OTC) whiteners on store shelves. While OTC strips may work for some, it’s important to keep in mind that they do have certain restrictions. For example, OTC whiteners won’t work on crowns or fillings. Teeth that are stained grey instead of brown or yellow typically don’t respond as well to these types of whiteners, nor do teeth that are stained from antibiotic use while the teeth were developing under the gums. Whitening strips can save money but typically take longer to work. They also require some discipline on the part of the user to keep them in place for the right amount of time each day.
In-office bleaching. This type of whitening can be done right at your dentist’s office. A bleaching agent is applied directly to teeth and a special light helps accelerate the process. Depending on the desired effect, this may be accomplished in one session or take several appointments. Expect to spend 30-60 minutes at each session. Just like OTC whiteners, however, the bleach won’t do anything about the appearance of fillings or crowns. If you have a mix of natural teeth and fillings or crowns on your front teeth, your dentist may recommend bonding or veneers on your natural teeth instead of bleaching.
At-home bleaching. If you opt for this procedure, your dentist will take a mold of your teeth and create a custom-fit bleaching tray. Bleaching gel is squirted in the tray; the tray is worn for two or more hours every day for about two weeks.
Whether you opt for a custom whitener from your dentist or a more general do-it-yourself OTC product, consult your dentist first. Your dentist can use his or her expertise to help you decide what type of whitening would be the best fit for your teeth and your lifestyle.